Friday, January 31, 2014

Should The Montreal Canadiens Go After Ryan Callahan?

Callahan is an impending UFA.
It is been said that Ryan Callahan is available, or rather, that New York Rangers GM Glen Sather is entertaining the idea of trading him if he feels they are not close to reaching an agreement in their contract negotiations. Sather would rather get something for him now, than lose him and get no significant return. Makes sense.

It is rumoured that Callahan is looking for a long-term deal in the 6-7 year range and an average annual salary of around 6 million dollars.

Here are the implications, both negative and positive of the Canadiens making a move to acquire the services of New York Rangers' Captain Ryan Callahan via trade or signing him in the summer.

The good

1) Callahan would fit nicely on the right wing in lieu of Brian Gionta over the next few seasons.

2) Ryan Callahan is a stereotypical Marc Bergevin type player. Gritty, hard nosed, plays with a lot of heart, not afraid to block shots or to stick up for his teammates and be a leader. The “C” is for CHARACTER!

3) Callahan is a former teammate of Brandon Prust. When they last united their efforts, their team went deep into the playoffs.

4) On a line with Thomas Plekanec they would form one of the hardest duos to play against in the NHL. #plekanecforselke

5) The salary cap is supposed to go up considerably in the next few years.

6) His acquisition would undoubtedly make the Habs better right now.

The bad

1) Callahan's production has diminished quite a bit recently, he has had 51 points in his last 83 games. Not bad but not worth over 6 million a year for 6 years.

2) His size (5'10”) combined with his style of play have led to numerous injuries in his case.

3) His salary demands are quite hefty for a 28-year-old forward who has never achieved more than 55 points at the professional level. Yes, that includes the AHL.

4) Trading for Callahan would cost the Habs at the very minimum a high pick and a prospect. All that and you're not even guaranteed to retain his services after this season. And they could still miss the playoffs! That's a worst case scenario, and a grim one indeed!

5) A long-term contract for a player of that calibre would tie up money that would go towards Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher, and any other Habs player who should get a raise over the next few seasons. It would also hinder the ability to sign other bigger name free agents or even trade for a high-impact player. Of course, this all depends on how much the cap goes up over the next few years.

6) He could become the Habs' version of David "water bottle" Clarkson .An overpaid, under-producing winger who has leadership qualities. (For those of you who don't know about the water bottle incident with Todd Bertuzzi, I strongly encourage you to Google it.)

Impressions & Possibilities

I think Callahan is a solid hockey player who leaves it all on the ice and would be useful in Montreal.
We are also desperate for a good right winger. That being said, Marc Bergevin has quite a few things to figure out before he can chase down a player whom, if acquired via trade, would probably have to be signed to a new, hefty, long-term contract. As we know, Callahan for the Canadiens, would be a longer term solution and not a rental player. That, in all likely hood, would mean making him one of the top-three most paid players in Habs history. If you're thinking: “That doesn't seem right.” It doesn't, it would be outrageous!

Bergevin has his work cut out for him. He still needs to sign P.K. Subban, sign or trade Andrei Markov, Lars Eller and Raphael Diaz. Try and get Rene Bourque to produce or send him away to anywhere for anything. (At this point I would trade Bourque for a sack of potatoes from Aaron Downey's family farm.) He is pretty useless out there. I am excited to see Christian Thomas, hopefully, take his spot in the line-up.

Bottom line is: Bergevin needs to paint a clearer picture of the future of the Canadiens before he goes chasing players, paying them handsomely and sacrificing youth. After those issues are addressed and Bergevin knows what kind of cap space he will have this summer, he will be able to sign guys like Callahan, Moulson, Orpik or Nikitin. But I don't see a trade happening right now, even if Callahan is a Bergevin type player.

Thanks for reading.

-Mike Gowing

Folllow me on twitter @habsosaurus

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fighting in Hockey Must End Now.

I want to take a break from talking about the Montreal Canadiens' latest drama involving Therrien and the team’s overall mediocre play for the last few weeks. I want to talk about our friend George Parros. Has anyone seen him lately? You probably glanced at him in the dressing room or watched him giving an interview on RDS. We barely see Parros dressed in uniform for game nights… unless you consider his uniform to be a suit. The story of Parros and the Canadiens is definitely no Cinderella story. By all means, injury on the first game is getting off on the wrong foot. Despite being cleared for play earlier this month, the enforcer has not seen much action on the ice. In my opinion, it is for the best. After his fight with Eric Boulton, it became clear to me that Parros should stop fighting, completely. As an athlete in a high contact sport, you are more likely to face multiple blows to the head, whether you are an enforcer or not.

With BellLetsTalk hashtags floating around Twitter this week, I can’t help but think about the millions of people suffering from mental illness in silence, living under the perpetual shadow of darkness which reigns over their consciousness day in and day out. The scary part is that a person suffering from depression could be the happy-go-lucky fellow you see every day at work, the individual whose life seems so perfect, who you might even secretly envy. In hockey, the losses of Wade Belak, Rick Rypien, and Derek Boogaard, serve as constant reminders of how little we really know about people, beyond the surface of the skin. You look at a guy like Belak, for example, and his story doesn't sound as typical as those of Rypien’s and Boogaard’s. In fact, he openly talked about his battle with depressive symptoms to his close friends, which is something you don’t see very often with people suffering from depression. Despite his openness and overall cheery mood, something was churning deep inside him that led him to suicide. Something so horrible that overcame any desire to live took over these three men to death. Yes, Boogaards’ death was accidental; his addiction to painkillers was not. More and more research is showing the increased risk for developing clinical depression after suffering multiple concussions. But hey, why should the NHL care? They’re only dealing with people’s lives here…

All three men, like Parros, were enforcers. They have each suffered multiple concussions. Unfortunately, fighting in the NHL is welcome and used to promote a tough and exciting image for the league. You just need to go down to Boston or Philadelphia, where a large portion of their pre-game graphics involve their players beating the crap out of their opponents, rather than demonstrating the skill so many have cultivated and developed since they were children. The essence of hockey shouldn't be based on a culture dependent in violence; hockey, more than ever, needs to embed its identity in that of the talent, strategy, and dedication players express game in and game out.

I don’t want to undermine the role of enforcers in the National Hockey League. Clearly, it is the hardest, most physically and psychologically taxing role to willingly take on. The sacrifices that players, like Parros, make to stay in the league are a testament to their devotion to the game. Taking away this role can ruin the dreams of many players whose skill level is inadequate to get them very far in hockey. In the grand scheme of things, an enforcer is lucky to stay in the league for an extended period of time anyway. Statistics have shown that the average career span of a professional ice hockey player is 5.5 years. In the grand scheme of things, all players retire and move on with their lives, much more centred on family. Is it worth it then, even if it’s for a brief period of time, to fight and risk the state of your long-term and immediate health, for a taste or a few more bites at the dream of playing in the NHL? From a player’s perspective, probably. And you can’t blame them for wanting to chase a dream,.but at what cost?

Pregame Preview: Canadiens at Bruins (Game #54)

Habs Vs Bruins 
Match Up:

The Canadiens (28-20-5) are headed to Boston to take on the rival Bruins (34-15-3) Thursday night. The game is set to start at 7:00 and airs on RDS and TSN-Habs.

This is the second of four games between the Habs and Bruins this season. The Canadiens already earned a 2-1 victory over the Bruins on home ice at the start of December. Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty each scored in the second period to put the Habs ahead and Carey Price shut the door with 32 saves on the night, including 16 in the third period.

What to Watch:

Brendan Gallagher, Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais combined for 2 goals and 5 points against Carolina on Tuesday in Montreal's 3-0. Each of the three finished the night at +2, while Gallagher led the Canadiens with 5 shots. Carey Price was the game's first star, earning his third shutout of the season.

The Bruins are coming off a 6-2 win over the Panthers on Tuesday, David Krejci led the way with a goal, 2 assists and a +5 rating in the game. Krejci now has 7 points in his last 4 games bringing him up to 45 points on the year to lead the Bruins. After scoring 9 points in 37 games with the Stars last season, Reilly Smith already has 40 this year with the Bruins. The 22-year old is in the midst of a 7-game point streak, with 3 goals and 5 assists for 8 points over that span.

What's at Stake:

The Habs should have plenty of motivation heading into Thursday's game against the Bruins. Aside from the fact they're facing off against one of their oldest rivals, Boston is also atop the division and a win would be a big confidence boost after a rough stretch. The Canadiens will be looking to win back-to-back games for the first time in January.

Who's Out:

The Habs are still missing Alex Galchenyuk (hand), Ryan White (upper body) and Davis Drewiske (shoulder).

The Bruins are without Dennis Seidenberg (knee) and Adam McQuaid (leg).

What Else:

When the Habs beat the Bruins in December, the victory vaulted them into first place in the Atlantic division. Now, less than two months later, the Bruins have a 10-point lead over the Canadiens. The Habs have dropped to fourth in the division with the Lightning and the Leafs both sitting between them and the division leading Bruins. Montreal has gone 10-11-2 in the 23 games they've played since beating the Bruins, while Boston has 16-7-1 over 24 games in that same span.

The Question Mark:

Unless they're re-signed beforehand, Brian Gionta, Andrei Markov, George Parros, Raphael Diaz, Francis Bouillon and Douglas Murray are all slated to become unrestricted free agents this summer. Who among those should Marc Bergevin be trying to move before the trade deadline and who should he be focused on re-signing?

Let us know what you think, leave a comment or send us a tweet by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Struggling Lars Eller

After starting off the season one of the hottest players in the NHL, Lars Eller has seriously tapered off as the season has gone on. It is hard to say that he is struggling solely because he is one of few Habs players who have continuously played a solid game throughout the seasons struggles. In my opinion, he embodies what most Habs fans, and coaches are looking for in a player. He has a good size, can throw some big hits, battles hard, is excellent defensively, and has some good hands to boot. Now, with all of these assets its hard to fathom why he could be having so many struggles this season in tallying points. Really, there are several reasons, and some are controllable, others are not.

First off, lets take a look at how Eller played last season. I thought that he played well, and showed that he is a serious contender as a number one centre. He hit a career high in points with 30 (8 G, 20 A) while playing well defensively, and spent a lot of time on the Habs penalty kill units. He has been known to score in bunches, and last year he never went more than four games without a point. He played well in all areas of the game and was rewarded for it.

This season seems to be a different story. He is playing the same, if not better, hockey as last season, yet he has been having a difficult time putting up points. He has had shots on net in 46 of 52 games, but just can't seem to find the back of the net. Part of the reason for me, is that he has not been used in the right way as of late. I noticed Eller starting to taper off from the score sheet in early December. He started playing a more defensive game, and playing with different linemates. When Therrien had the "EGG" line together, Eller was playing his best offensive hockey. Every time his line stepped on the ice their were scoring chances galore, and the momentum of the game was completely shifted. After Therrien's attempt to get players like David Desharnais, Rene Bourque, and Daniel Briere going, Eller was thrown around the line-up. Since then, he has not been able to find his groove with his linemates, and is playing the wrong role for his type of player.

Currently, he is playing on the wing (yes, the wing) with two-way forwards Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta. If Therrien wants to see Eller produce points, this has to change. With the team struggling in scoring, you'd think Therrien would do his best to set lines up to create the most offense. By utilizing Eller in this position, he is creating a line based around playing against the top line as a shut down offense. I think Eller should be playing with Pacioretty and Gallgher, creating a dynamic trio of offensive capability, but with enough hockey sense to be able to play defensively as well. Eller has the ability to do it all, he just needs to be put in the position to do so.

I believe that at some point Therrien will realize Eller's potential as an aggressive threat. When this happens, expect a huge improvement in points by Eller, as well as a big boost in Montreal's offense. Lars is an excellent player, and he should be used for his strengths. If Eller stays in the same spot as he is in right now. I don't expect to see much offense coming from him. I, for one, would like to see the dominant offensive force that could be, Lars Eller.

By Darrin Harmsworth

@darrinharmy

@darrinharmy

Pregame Preview: Canadiens vs Hurricanes (Game #53)

Habs Vs Canes 
Match Up:

The Canadiens (27-20-5) will look to end their 4-game losing streak at home against the Hurricanes (24-19-9) Tuesday night. The game starts at 7:30 and can be seen on RDS.

This is the second of three games between the Habs and Canes, and the only one at the Bell Center. The Hurricanes erased a 3-0 third period lead on New Year's Eve with four straight third period goals, including a pair of Jeff Skinner power play goals to start the rally. PK Subban brought the game back level, but Alexander Semin scored the overtime winner to cap off the comeback for Carolina.

What to Watch:

The Canadiens held a players-only meeting following their 5-0 loss against the Capitals on Saturday. Peter Budaj relieved Carey Price for the second time in three games. The Canadiens have given up 4 goals or more in their last 6 matches, a total of 28 of the 131 goals they've allowed in 52 games this season.

The Hurricanes are trending in the opposite direction of the Habs, they've won their last 4 straight to draw within 2 points of Montreal and are now holding down a playoff spot. A pair of third period goals by Eric Staal followed by the game winner by brother Jordan helped the Canes overcome the Blue Jackets Monday night for a 3-2 win.

What's at Stake:

The Habs are stuck in their worst losing streak and their worst stretch of play all season. They've lost their last four and have gone six games without winning in regulation. Tuesday's game is a chance for the Canadiens to bounce back in front of their home crowd before heading off  to Boston on Thursday. It's sixth and final home game of January, where the Habs have gone 2-2-1 so far this month.

Who's Out:

The Habs are still without Alex Galchenyuk (hand), who should be back after the Olympic break. Ryan White (upper body) and Davis Drewiske (shoulder) are also out.

The Hurricanes are missing starting goalie, Cam Ward (lower body), he hasn't played since beating the Habs a month ago. Anton Khudobin was in nets Monday night, which means young netminder Justin Peters should get the start in Montreal.

What Else:

During the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 campaign the Habs never lost more than 3 straight games, their last 4-game slide started March 23, 2012 when the Canadiens were beaten 4-1 by the Flyers. Daniel Briere was the first star in that game, with 2 goals including the game winner for Philadelphia.

The Question Mark:

Rumors of a Habs trade abounded on Monday. According to TVA's Louis Jean, Colorado's PA Parenteau (25 points in 41 games this season) was on the table for Rene Bourque and another unknown piece. We want to hear from you, how much would you be willing to give up along with Bourque to land a Parenteau type player?

Let us know what you think, leave a comment or send us a tweet by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Report: Canadiens Apparently Reject Bourque for Parenteau Deal

According to Louis Jean of TVA Sports, Habs GM Marc Bergevin has turned down a trade that would have sent Avalanche forward Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau to the Canadiens in exchange for forward Rene
Bourque.

Parenteau, 30, is slated to receive $4M/year for the next three seasons while Bourque, 32, is under contract through the 2015-16 season at an affordable cap hit of $3.33M.

Parenteau has 9 goals and 17 assists for 26 points in 41 games this season whereas Bourque has a mere 7 goals and a single helper for 8 points in 39 games with Montreal. 

At the moment it is still unclear if other elements were involved in the deal, but it is also reported that the Canadiens would retain part of Bourque's salary and would send a low draft pick in the trade. 

While Avalanche beat write Adrian Dater indicated that this rumor is untrue, NHL insiders Renaud Lavoie and Bob MacKenzie confirmed that Parenteau is on the trade market right now. 

To add fuel to the fire, PAP is a healthy scratch tonight for the Avalanche.

While reports are contradictory, it is highly doubtful Marc Bergevin would reject a one for one trade that would allow him to get rid of the unproductive Bourque for a top-six forward that would definitely help the Habs' sputtering offense. 

Stay tuned as there might be more developments on that rumor du jour in the upcoming hours or days.

Follow me on Twitter @FredPoulin98 to get more updates and news on the Habs.

Monday Musings: I Hate Being Right.. Sort Of

Its Monday, Habs Addicts.

Well this past week was a challenge for us as fans.  Trounced by Pittsburgh 5-1, beaten soundly by Detroit 4-1 and soundly whooped by Washington 5-0. Embarrassing performance by everyone involved. Was it surprising? Hardly. Let me take you back to the concluding paragraph of last Monday's Musings:
This weeks games include matchups on the road in Pittsburgh to face Sidney Crosby's Penguins on Wednesday, followed by an original-six battle in Detroit on Friday night. The Habs return home to Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Saturday. With the defensive showing we saw this past week, going 0-3 and allowing 15 goals against is a very distinct possibility
Photo Credit: Days of Y'Orr
Wow! I hate being right.. sort of.  Truth be told, they went 0-3 and allowed 14 goals against. While scoring 2 goals in those 3 games.  Two. Deux. Dos.  No matter how you say it, its terrible. This week puts the Habs 2014 record a.k.a the month of January at 4-6-1. In those games they've scored 25 goals (2.27 per game) while allowing 40 goals against (3.64 per game). Needless to say, thats pathetic.  The defensive slide actually commenced just prior to the new year, as the last to games in December were losses as well (4-1 to Florida & 5-4 in overtime to Carolina).

What happened? How did one of the best defensive teams in the NHL suddenly turn into the Edmonton Oilers of the Eastern Conference?  Where did our scoring go?  Our friend Andrew Berkshire (@andrewberkshire) at "Habs Eyes on The Prize" has delved into this at depth.  I'm not too much of a stats guy, so I'll let him breakdown whats happening this season compared to last season.  Its not pretty.
I'm not going to talk about the lack of scoring. Even-strength scoring has been a problem for us all season long.  Solid goaltending and defensive play put us in the position we were in before the swoon started (Top 4 team in the Eastern Conference).  Since the calendar year has changed, the scoring output is the same but the defensive effort has evaporated.  Its gone. Carey Price has allowed some weak goals but has otherwise been hung out to dry most nights.  Surely he must be frustrated.  Why has this happened?

What we all know just by watching the games is Michel Therrien has had a revolving door of defenders this past month with no set pairings.  The past few games, Douglas Murray has been paired up with P.K. Subban. I can see the logic. Murray has been atrocious. He has no offense abilities, and while he was never known to be mobile, he'd make Hal Gill look like Erik Karlsson out there. Murray can still lay the body on people - he's still a 240 pound monster - but only if you skate right at him. Its like watching a Steven Segal fight scene (PG-13 for violence). Sure he'll whoop you, but only if you come right to him.  What was the result of this pairing?  We saw the 3 worst games of the season for P.K. Subban. Not an improvement in Douglas Murray.  Murray is now -13 at even strength, tied with Alexei Emelin for worst on the team.  Emelin has also looked shaky since returning from his knee injury and has been a healthy scratch recently. Mind you, he's also playing on his off-wing (the right side as a left-handed shot) and is clearly not comfortable on that side.

Andrei Markov has recently started to slow down, just like he did at this point last year.  Its clear that his legs cannot hold up to the workhorse minutes (25:18 average time on the ice per game) that he could in the past.  Things aren't going to get better for Markov, either.  For 1) This is an 82-game season, not the abreviated 48 games we saw last year and 2) He'll be logging big minutes in high pressure games for Team Russia at the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi. While other veterans are resting, Markov is logging more ice time on his already tiring legs.  Oh, and we still have the home-stretch of the season right after that.

Therrien's revolving door of defenders also seems to have no rhyme or reason behind his choices.  Pittsburgh and Detroit are both speedy, skilled teams. They play an up-tempo game, not a physical grind-it-out style that you see from Boston and Toronto. So naturally, Murray replaced Rafael Diaz in the lineup.  While Diaz has not played very well this season, he represents a better puck-moving option as well as possessing the ability to skate, which is a very important skill in today's NHL. Markov and Subban have been paired up. Markov and Emelin. Subban and Gorges. With that said, pairings have also changed mid-game.  No rhyme or reason. No chemistry either. On the plus side, rookie Nathan Beaulieu was inserted into the lineup this week and has played well, considering the outcomes of the game. He should be here to stay. Hopefully.

Two very good articles have been written this past week about Michel Therrien's coaching abilities and anyone who follows us on the #mtlhockey tag on Twitter knows that Habs fans are calling for a coaching change.  Habs Addict's own Fred Poulin (@fredpoulin98) wrote the following piece:
This article more-or-less sums up the entire season, with some very valid points by one of our knowledgeable contributors.  Hard to disagree with his assessment.

Andrew Berkshire also has another good read, this one directed at Habs management on his Eyes on the Prize blog.  Again, Andrew is a stats guy so he has a lot of numbers to back up his arguments and also has some very good ideas.
Normally I spend my Monday Musings recapping the week that was. Not much to say. It played out basically how I predicted it would play out. Horribly. What's in store this week: A home game Tuesday against the surging Carolina Hurricanes (8-3 in 2014), a road-trip to Boston to face the Bruins Thursday, capped off with a home game against a strong Tampa Bay Lightning team.  I expect the Habs to win one of these games at the very least. Carolina won 5-4 last matchup in over-time and the Habs and Tampa have exchanged 2-1 wins this season, both games going into the extra frame as well. And lets face it, no matter what, we always step things up for Boston.

Three Questions from my musings:

A)  Will Marc Bergevin make the coaching change we are all calling for or will Michel Therrien be given the rest of the season to turn things around?

B)   Will Nathan Beaulieu stay up with the big club and remain a steady contributor on the blueline for the remainder of the season?

C)  Will we beat Boston?


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Pregame Preview: Canadiens vs Capitals (Game #52)

habs_vs_capitals
Match Up:

The Canadiens (27-19-5) return home to the Bell Centre Saturday night to play host to the Capitals (22-21-8). The game is set to start at 7:00 and airs on RDS and CBC.

This is the third and final game between the Habs and Caps this year, they've already split a pair of 3-2 games, but the Habs have picked up 3 of 4 points against Washington. Tomas Plekanec had a goal and an assist last time these teams met, but Mikhail Grabovsk scored a late goal to draw the Caps even and then added the shootout winner in the fourth round. Braden Holtby wass the game's first star after stopping 35 of 37 shots.

What to Watch:

The line of Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller and Brian Gionta weren't able to find the back of the net in Detroit but they did combine for 14 of the team's 31 shots Friday night and managed to maintain an even rating. Brendan Gallagher, the lone Habs goals scorer in Detroit, scored his seventh power play goal of the season, tying him with Max Pacioretty for the team lead.

The Capitals have been held to just 3 goals in their last 4 games, and 8 in the last 7. Braden Holtby is expected to start in Montreal Saturday night, he's 0-3-1 in his last 4 starts with 17 goals allowed in that span.

What's at Stake:

Both the Habs and the Caps are in the midst of their worst streaks all season and probably looking at Saturday's game as their best opportunity to end those skids. Montreal has lost 3 straight in regulation for the first time all season, meanwhile, the Caps haven't won in their last 7, and now have 5 regulation losses in a row. The Canadiens have seen their comfortable playoff positioning reduced to a 3-point cushion over the eight placed Wings and the ninth placed Flyers, and for the first time all season, missing the playoffs looks like a real possibility.

Who's Out:

The Habs are still without Alex Galchenyuk (hand), Ryan White (upper body) and Davis Drewiske (shoulder). Alexei Emelin left Fridays game after blocking a shot in the third period but should be healthy enough to play Saturday night if he's called on.

Alex Ovechkin has missed the last two games with a lower body injury and is listed as day-to-day. Mikhail Grabovski left Friday's game with a lower body injury as well.

What Else:

This is the third time the Habs and Capitals are meeting this year and the third time their facing off as part of back-to-back games, and the first time they're meeting each other on the second night of a back-to-back stretch. For the Habs and the Caps, this is their tenth pair of games in consecutive nights. The Habs have a 5-4-0 record in the second game of these series, the Caps meanwhile are 4-3-2.

The Question Mark:

We want to hear from you, which version of the Habs that we've seen this year is the real one: the one that won 10 straight, the one that traded wins and losses in December, or the team that can't get anything going recently?

Let us know what you think, leave a comment or send us a tweet by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Top-10 Reasons To Fire Michel Therrien

Therrien is making controversial decisions this season.
From an article I wrote back in November:
When Michel Therrien was hired about 20 months ago to coach the Montreal Canadiens, the decision didn’t have unanimous support from the fans and the media. The truth was that  Therrien had already failed behind the Habs bench in the early 2000′s. Yet, the move paid off last season when the Canadiens managed to lead the team to a Northeast Division championship with a record of 29-14-5 for 63 points in 48 games. However, after a strong start in 2012-13, Therrien’s team faltered down the stretch going 6-8 in the last 14 games of the season. At the same point last campaign, the Canadiens had an excellent record of 12-4-3, starting at the top of the Eastern Conference.

Now after 50 games and a 27-18-5 record, the team has seen its lead evaporate due to poor play in the last 19 games, going 9-8-2 and allowing at least 4 goals in the last 4 games.
Let’s see why Michel Therrien needs to be fired if GM Marc Bergevin and owner Geoff Molson have any hopes to see their team make the playoffs this season.
Below you will find 10 reasons why the Canadiens must get rid of Michel Therrien:
1. Therrien has openly criticized his all-star defenseman P.K. Subban for his turnovers and his lazy penalties, calling him out publicly for his mistakes, which is something you just don’t do if you want your star players on your side. Therrien has also stifled Subban’s creativity. As a result, the Subbanator has only 1 goal and 1 assist in his last 8 games, posting a -6 rating playing alongside Josh Gorges.
2. His consistent use of Francis Bouillon on the second power play instead of using Subban for the whole two minutes just like the Penguins and the Senators do with Kris Letang and Erik Karlsson respectively. Now with the arrival of Nathan Beaulieu, Bouillon’s playing time on the power play should diminish, but he was still out there last night vs. the Penguins. Since the 2011-12 season, Bouillon has played 147 minutes with the power play and has collected a single assist during that period. A SINGLE ASSIST.
3. His constant line juggling and questionable decisions regarding his offensive lines and defensive duos. For example, veteran Daniel Briere was clicking nicely with two-way forwards Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta but as soon as sophomore Alex Galchenyuk went down with a broken wrist, Therrien started juggling his lines inserting different players in that spot, namely Travis Moen, Lars Eller, Brandon Prust.
4. His return to a dump-and-chase style of play with a passive forecheck is not working. Because of the small size of the club’s forwards, the Habs would be better suited to adopt a west-east approach instead of a north-south strategy that is simply not working. The team needs to penetrate the offensive zone with the puck instead of dumping it and failing to retrieve it. The Habs need to forecheck with two forwards and use their speed to create turnovers in the offensive zone instead of letting the opposing teams come out of its zone too easily and enter the neutral zone without any pressure. The team is also always sitting on their leads without much success, dropping at least three 3-0 leads in the last month, 3!
5. Therrien’s hidden hatred of veteran Daniel Briere. When Briere signed a two-year pact worth $8 million in the off-season, he did not imagine he would end up playing 10:00 on most nights, despite being one of the best talented forwards this team has. Therrien did not like that Briere came to his office to have more playing time and play at center back in October. Since then, the relationship between the two men is tense.
6. His over-utilization of unproductive winger Rene Bourque on the man advantage and at even strength. It took 36 games for Therrien to finally scratch Bourque on Saturday in Toronto despite the fact that Bourque had only 6 goals and 1 assist in 36 games before potting his first road goal on the season on Wednesday.
7. Poor defensive positioning had led to numerous scoring chances from the opposing teams and if it were not for Carey Price’s and Peter Budaj’s stellar play, the Canadiens would have a far worse record. The defensemen have a hard time making a good first pass, often icing the puck because of an inaccurate pass or clearing the puck by the boards with the wingers having no real opportunity to catch the pass and make a clear exit of the defensive zone. The team is so discombobulated in the defensive zone that the opponent have been able to take advantage of this flaw, scoring at least 4 goals against the Habs in their last 5 raod games.
Therrien is clueless most of the time.
Therrien is clueless most of the time.
8. His poor decisions regarding defensive pairings such as splitting Subban and Markov, playing Alexei Emelin on the his wrong side, and dressing Douglas Murray and Francis Bouilloninstead of Alexei Emelin and Raphael Diaz.
9. The utilization of George Parros despite the fact that he’s not fighting any more and not playing physical at all. Parros has fought only 3 times in 10 contests, getting a mere 10 hits in the process and posting a miserable -6 rating in spite of playing less than 5 minutes per game.
10. His inability to adapt during games and to match-up his lines, especially at home where he is supposed to have the advantage with the last change. We have often seen the Canadiens get caught with their fourth line on the ice while the opponent’s first line jumps on the ice; situations that often led to a goal.
Below you will find the Habs’ expected lines for Friday’s match-up against the Detroit Red Wings:
Max Pacioretty – David Desharnais – Brendan Gallagher
Brandon Prust – Daniel Briere – Rene Bourque
Lars Eller – Tomas Plekanec – Brian Gionta
Travis Moen – MichaĆ«l Bournival – Louis Leblanc
Once again I am puzzled at the hockey decisions made by Michel Therrien and his coaching staff.
As for the defensive pairings, nobody has a clue what the duos will be and who is going to play or be scratched…
While there is still time to make the playoffs, the Habs are on a free fall and now have only a five-point lead over the 9th place team… who happens to be the Red Wings. A win by Detroit on Friday but shrink that tiny lead to a mere 3 points…
It sounds like Therrien is quickly losing his dressing room as a result of poor decisions this season… When do you think he gets canned? During the season or after the playoffs (if they make it)?

Pregame Preview: Canadiens at Red Wings (Game #51)

montreal canadiens vs detroit red wings nhl 
Match Up:

The struggling Canadiens (27-18-5) are in Detroit Friday to face the Red Wings (22-18-10) for the first time this season. The game is set to start at 7:30 and can be seen on RDS and TSN.

This is the first of four meetings between the Habs and Wings this season. The game takes place two years less a day since the last time these teams faced off. The Canadiens scored a 7-2 win on Bell Centre ice that night, David Desharnais and Erik Cole had 3 points each. The last time the Habs played in Detroit was December, 2010.

What to Watch:

Carey Price was pulled from Wednesday game in the second period after giving up 5 goals in 21 shots. It was just the second time this season Peter Budaj needed to step in to replace Price. Nathan Beaulieu played in his second straight game on Wednesday, he finished the night at +1 and saw close to 15 minutes of ice time.

The Red Wings have struggled through injuries all season long, Drew Miller and Kyle Quincey are the only Wings to play all 50 games so far. Detroit's top three scorers, Henrik Zetterberg (42 points), Pavel Datsyuk (32) and Daniel Alfredsson (30) have missed over 10 games each.

The injury woes continue for the Red Wings as starting goalie Jimmy Howard is sidelined which means Jonas Gustavsson will be in nets. The good news for Detroit is that despite his 2.47 goals against average, Gustavsson boasts a 12-3-2 record this season.

What's at Stake:

After allowing 17 goals in their last 4 games, the Habs are looking for a solid defensive outing Friday night. The Red Wings are 5 points back of the Canadiens as more and more Eastern bubble teams climb to within striking distance of Montreal.

Who's Out:

The Habs are still missing Alex Galchenyuk (hand), Ryan White (upper body) and Davis Drewiske (shoulder). Call-ups Louis Leblanc and Nathan Beaulieu are both expected to dress Friday night which will likely leave George Parros, Raphael Diaz and Francis Bouillon in the press box.

The Red Wings are missing top forwards Johan Franzen (concussion), Pavel Datsyuk (lower body) and Stephen Weiss (groin), starting goalie Jimmy Howard (knee) is also out, so are forwards Joakim Andersson (lower body) and Cory Emmerton (hand). One positive note for Detroit is that Daniel Alfredsson is expected to return to the lineup on Friday after missing the last 6 games with back spasms.

What Else:

It took a little over half the season but the Habs finally get to take on their new division rivals for the first time this year. The Wings are the only team the Canadiens haven't yet encountered this season, they meet 4 times in the last 32 games. The Canadiens don't get to play in Detroit very often, for David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty, this will be their first NHL games played in Joe Louis Arena, the same goes for Alexei Emelin, Brendan Gallagher, Michael Bournival, Louis Leblanc and Nathan Beaulieu.

The Question Mark:

We want to hear from you, between the players, coaching staff and upper management which group needs to step up to get the Habs back on track?

Let us know what you think, leave a comment or send us a tweet by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Pregame Preview: Canadiens at Penguins (Game #50)

Canadiens Vs Penguins 
Match Up:

The Canadiens (27-17-5) are in Pittsburgh Wednesday night to take on the Eastern leading Penguins (34-13-2). The game is set to start at 7:00 and airs on RDS and TSN.

This is the second of three meetings between the Habs and Pens, the Canadiens have already picked up a 3-2 victory on home ice. Max Pacioretty had two goals including the game winner. After three straight goals by the Habs, James Neal scored a pair to bring the Penguins back to within one. Evgeni Malkin had assists on both.

What to Watch:

Max Pacioretty is riding a 4-game point streak heading into Wednesday's game, he's up to 21 goals on the year in 40 games played. Lars Eller has been struggling to find his game recently, he's gone 7 games without a point. Eller had 6 points in his first 3 games this season, but only managed to put up 4 points all of December.

With 68 points in 49 games, Sidney Crosby leads the league and is well on his way to his second career Art Ross Trophy. James Neal and Evgeni Malkin both missed significant action this year but are also over a point per game on the season, Malkin has 48 points in 38 games and Neal has 36 in 28. Chris Kunitz has 24 goals and 49 points in 49 games.

What's at Stake:

After an extended streak of trading wins and losses, the Habs tied with the Leafs for third spot in the Atlantic heading into Wednesday’s game. They're still comfortably holding down a playoff spot, but the Canadiens have gone from looking ahead at teams like the Lightning and Bruins to looking over their shoulders.

Who's Out:

The Canadiens are missing Alex Galchenyuk (hand) and Davis Drewiske (shoulder). Ryan White (upper body) is nearing a return but there's no indication he'll play Wednesday. With Joonas Nattinen returning to the Bulldogs after Saturday's game, Louis Leblanc was called up to the big team.

The Pens are missing Pascal Dupuis (knee), Joe Vitale (wrist), Beau Bennett (wrist), Brian Gibbons (lower body), Andrew Ebbett (ankle), Chris Conner (hand) and back up goalie Tomas Vokoun (hip).

What Else:

The Canadiens are in the midst of an identity crisis, the team hasn't put together back-to-back wins or losses since the Christmas break. The good news is, the Habs have scored power play goals in two straight games, against the Leafs Saturday and the Sens on Thursday, but they've also given up 14 goals in their last three games. The penalty kill is still a strong point for the Canadiens, but the way they've been running, it seems only a matter of time before that falters as well.

The Question Mark:

We want to hear from you, aside from the Penguins, which team do you expect to see representing the East in the Stanley Cup Finals?

Let us know what you think, leave a comment or send us a tweet by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.
Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Monday Musings: P.K Subban is Too Much for Don Cherry?

Happy Monday, Habs Addicts!

Photo Credit: TSN.CA
Well we had quite an interesting week this week.  Three games were played, with Montreal starting the week with a 4-1 loss at home to the New Jersey Devils, followed up by an entertaining 5-4 overtime win in Ottawa and a prime-time, Hockey Night in Canada rivalry match-up against the Maple Leafs that resulted in an entertaining and disappointing 5-3 defeat. As we all know, P.K. Subban celebrated his overtime goal against the Senators by emphatically tugging his jersey and kissing the logo as he left the ice, riling up Senators fans while showing tremendous CH pride to the Habs fans in attendance.  This came back to haunt him on Saturday, as James Van Riemsdyk mocked the move with a jersey tug of his own after scoring the game-winning goal. Don Cherry also voiced his opinion on the matter and thus Jersey-Tug-Gate has been born. That recaps the week in a paragraph, now onto my musings.

- Two of the leagues elder statesmen, Jaromir Jagr and Martin Brodeur (both 41 years old), each had stellar performances against the Habs in a 4-1 victory this past Tuesday.  Jagr scored his 14th goal of the season - and 695th of his career, surpassing Mark Messier for 7th most all-time - and also chipped in an assist.  Martin Brodeur stopped 29 of 30 shots and was named 1st star of the game in what may have been his last appearance in Montreal.  The Habs played a flat game and left Carey Price without much support. Price also had an off-night, allowing 4 goals on only 19 shots.  Overall, this game mirrored the performance we saw the previous week against the Philadelphia Flyers.  Sure the Habs outshot the Devils, but that total is deceiving as Brodeur was rarely challenged. This game served as another reminder of what could have been, as its no secret that Jagr has wanted to play in Montreal and has had several opportunities to sign here the past few seasons as a free-agent.  Future Hall-of-Famer, 6'4", 240-lbs, tremendous work ethic and amazing mentor to players like Alex Galchenyuk, Brendan Gallagher and Michael Bournival? Who wouldn't want that in the lineup?  But no, instead Marc Bergevin decided to spend the same money on Daniel Briere.  For the record, Briere had 0 points and 1 shot on goal in 18:09 minutes of ice time and has 1 assist in his past 5 games.  Fantastic.

- Carey Price called his performance against the Senators one of his best games of the season. Hard to argue when you see the highlights and some of the saves he had in the 5-4 overtime win.  Ottawa dominated the action in this game after the Habs jumped to an early 3-0 advantage.  Price did allow 4 goals on 44 shots, but this game easily could have mimicked the 9-1 shellacking the Anaheim Ducks put on the Vancouver Canucks the night before had Price not stood on his head.  Price had absolutely no help from his defenders and was left to fend for himself on numerous occasions and came up big.  The Habs, to their credit, fought back to tie the game before P.K. Subban notched the game winning goal in overtime.  What happened after that is the widely debated jersey-tugging incident.  Unfortunately Subban's exuberant celebration took some of the limelight away from the performance of Price and also set up a rant from Don Cherry on his Coach's Corner segment this past Saturday. To summarize, here's an excerpt from Coach's Corner:

“I love Subban. I’ve known him since he’s been a kid. I’m the guy that pumped him and pumped him ... I’m the guy that pumped for the Team Canada, the whole deal. This is one of the reasons they did not want him; because of what he did in Ottawa ...  And all he does is pump up the other team. He has to stop that stuff. I thought he’d stop it ... It’s absolutely ridiculous. Don’t give ammunition ... And Subban had better stop that stuff when he goes to Team Canada."   - Don Cherry, Coach's Corner, CBC
Subban showed a lot of emotion, especially after scoring the goal. He fell after shooting and upon seeing the puck in the net, left his stick in the crease as he went tearing to his teammates to celebrate the victory.  Leaving the ice, he took a page out of Alex Galchenyuk's book and emphatically tugged his jersey and gave the logo a kiss, paying homage to the CH and the fans in attendance.  It also served to rile up the Senators and their fans.  And Don Cherry.  Last I checked, Don Cherry has found ways to rile up just everyone in hockey at some point in his career, nevermind the overly flamboyant suits he wears during his broadcasts.  For a guy who draws more attention to himself and his comments on Saturday nights than the game usually does, I think calling out Subban for being an excited kid who gets caught up in the moment is a little bit hypocritical, Grapes.  Does Subban's actions get under the skin of his opponents? Yup. Does it serve to motivate the other team?  Maybe a little. Impact is probably overrated by the media. These are professional athletes, playing an 82-game season. Maybe bulletin-board material would work in a short series or a key game, not so much for a random mid-season matchup.

-  Further adding fuel to the Jersey-Tug-Gate fire, James Van Riemsdyk celebrated his eventual game-winning-goal on Saturday night with a jersey tug of his own, directed at P.K. Subban.  Needless to say, the press was all over this one in the game recap.  Van Riemsdyk claims he only celebrated his goal in this manner after Subban apparently taunted the Leaf's bench after Montreal scored a goal in the first period.  I'm no expert, but I would analyze that the taunting in the first period had less to do with it and the more likely cause was the fact that Subban and Van Riemsdyk played a very chippy and very physical game against one another the entire evening. There were numerous altercations along the boards and words spoken between the two.  Did Subban say something to the Leaf's bench? Probably.  Are comments made all night, every night in hockey games? Absolutely. Should we be concerned with Subban's actions? I say no. Subban surely doesn't care about the issue.  Lets face it, he has personality. He has talent. He has a Norris Trophy. If Bergevin wanted to move him, 29 other GM's will come calling.  Does he need to mature on the ice? Of course he does. He's only 24 years old. The upside is tremendous. Let him play his game.

- Overall, the Leafs and Habs played a spirited affair in the 5-3 Leafs win.  Michel Therrien played a young rookie, Joonas Nattinen over the consistently-under-producing Rene Bourque.  Nattinen saw 1:45 of ice time.  Or half that of George Parros. Parros was on the ice for a goal against in his 3:03. Nathan Beaulieu played 13+ minutes in place of Douglas Murray, and has since remained up with the club.  How much he plays is yet to be determined. Marc Bergevin should be concerned with Therrien's handling of the young players. Against Toronto, Carey Price stood tall while the defensive effort again collapsed around him. Hard to fault him on most of the goals and the fifth goal of the game was an empty-net goal.  

This week saw the defensive effort crumble, as the Devils, Senators and Leafs scored 4, 4 and 5 goals against, respectively.  In the past 10 games, the Habs have allowed 4+ goals seven times. Seven. When your offense is barely producing, you can't be allowing that many goals.  Somehow Montreal has managed to go 4-4-2 in those 10 games, with 2 of those victories also coming in overtime. Therrien came to Montreal as a changed man, so to speak.  New Michel Therrien lasted half a shortened season.  Since the middle of last year, the Habs have played like a .500 hockey team and suffered an embarrassing playoff round loss to the Senators.  Therrien needs to figure out what he has with this hockey club and soon, because another swoon and first-round playoff exit could - and should - cost him his job. Right now, he has the leash he needs to turn it around but with the glaring problems that need to be addressed with his handling of young players, overall game management and consistency, its hard to see him righting the ship anytime soon.

This weeks games include matchups on the road in Pittsburgh to face Sidney Crosby's Penguins on Wednesday, followed by an original-six battle in Detroit on Friday night. The Habs return home to Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Saturday. With the defensive showing we saw this past week, going 0-3 and allowing 15 goals against is a very distinct possibility. 


Three (or Four) Questions from my musings:

A) i) Should the Habs have signed Jagr over Daniel Briere this past off-season?
A) ii) Should the Habs attempt to acquire Jaromir Jagr from the Devils at the trade deadline?

B) Does P.K. Subban need to shelve his celebratory style in order to avoid 'motivating' the opponents?

C) Does the defensive performance of the past 10 games reflect a disturbing trend or is it simply a blip on the radar that happens to all teams during a long season?



Montreal Canadiens Three Stars of the Week - Jan 13 - 19, 2014


montreal canadiens habs tricolore 3 stars nhl

The Canadiens had a rough go of things last week, taking just 2 of 6 points and giving up 5 in return to Eastern Conference rivals. Martin Brodeur earned a first star for his part in the Devils' 4-1 on Tuesday in what may have been his final game in Montreal. On Thursday in Ottawa, the Canadiens needed a third period goal just to draw even after blowing a 3-0 lead. Luckily, PK Subban's overtime heroics were enough to earn the Habs a 5-4 win over the Sens.

The Canadiens had their hands full with the Maple Leafs in Toronto on Saturday, they rallied back from down 3-1 to draw even midway through the third on a David Desharnais redirect, but James Van Riemsdyk put the Leafs ahead for good with about five minutes left to play. Joffrey Lupul was awarded a goal when he was slowed down on a breakaway with the Habs net empty, sealing the 5-3 win for Toronto.

First Star: David Desharnais

Desharnais missed Tuesday's games with flu-like symptoms but bounced back with a goal and an assist Thursday against the Sens and capped the week off with what was at the time a game-tying goal in the third period on Saturday. Since his horrendous start to the season, where he earned just 1 point in his first 19 games, Desharnais has bounced back to become the team's most consistent scorer, picking up 23 points in his last 27 games.

Second Star: Carey Price

It was a rough week for the Habs' star netminder, he faced 91 shots and allowed 11 goals for a less than stellar .879 save percentage. But Price was also the biggest reason the Habs were able to come away with any points making stop after unbelievable stop Thursday night in Ottawa and coming away with 40 saves on the night. Carey Price picked up second star honors in the nation's capital for his efforts, it was the only star any Habs player earned all week.

Third Star: Max Pacioretty

Max Pacioretty was the only Canadien to pick up points in all three matches this week, tallying 2 goals and an assist in 3 games. He was Montreal's lone goal scorer Tuesday night against New Jersey. Pacioretty also ended Montreal's power play drought with his marker Thursday night during the Habs' only power play against the Senators.

Honorable Mention: Brian Gionta

The Canadiens' captain picked up a goal and an assist this week but was a big reason the Habs were able to earn two points in Ottawa. Gionta set up the game-tying goal with a stretch pass to Tomas Plekanec late in the third. He also freed up the puck in OT, setting the table for PK Subban's game winning goal. Saturday night, Gionta scored with less than 15 seconds remaining in the second period to bring the Habs within a goal with a period left to play.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pregame Preview: Canadiens at Maple Leafs (Game #49)

montreal canadiens vs toronto maple leafs 
Match Up:

The Canadiens (27-16-5) are in Toronto Saturday night to face the rival Maple Leafs (24-20-5) on Hockey Night in Canada. The game starts at 7:00 and airs on CBC and RDS.

It's the third of five meetings between these two original six teams, the Habs have already hosted the Leafs twice at the Bell Centre this year, splitting victories with the Leafs. Max Pacioretty had 2 goals and an assist in the last meeting, powering the Habs to a 4-2 victory.

What to Watch:

Montreal's offensive leaders, PK Subban, Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty each found the back of the net Thursday night in Ottawa, leading the Habs to a rocky 5-4 overtime win. Despite the 4 goals against, Carey Price was the team's biggest star against the Senators. Price had 40 save on the night include half a dozen highlight reel stops.

The Canadiens will have their hands full with Toronto's top line of Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk. Bozak missed over 20 games with injury but is up to 22 points in the 25 games he's played. Phil Kessel leads the Leafs with 22 goals and 24 assists. Kessel has lead the Leafs in points every season since 2009 when he joined the team.

What's at Stake:

The Habs have the opportunity to do something Saturday night that they've only done once since the second week of December, win back-to-back games. Toronto is just 6 points back on the Habs for third spot in the division, making Saturday's match up an important 4-point game.

Who's Out:

The Canadiens are still without Alex Galchenyuk (hand), Ryan White (upper body) and Davis Drewiske (shoulder). Also questionable for Saturday's game are Lars Eller and Raphael Diaz, both battling a case of the flu. In response, Joonas Nattinen and Nathan Beaulieu have been recalled from Hamilton.

The Leafs are missing David Clarkson (elbow), Frazer McLaren (shoulder), Dave Bolland (ankle) and Trevor Smith (hand).

What Else:

While the Canadiens will be doing battle with the Leafs, just down the road in Hamilton at the Copps Coliseum the Bulldogs will face off against the Utica Comets for Dskate Night. Dskate is a one-of-a-kind hockey camp for youths aged 8-16 with type-1 diabetes, they've partnered with the Hamilton Bulldogs to support JDRF, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the initiative was started by Montreal Hockey Talk's own Steven Hindle. The Bulldogs will be wearing Dskate and JDRF patches on their jersey's to mark the event. Learn more about Dskate on their website: https://dskatehockey.com/en/.

The Question Mark:

48 games into the season the Habs have 4 less points than they did during the lock-out shortened 2012-2013 campaign, but they've also gone up against tougher Western Conference opponents that they didn't have to play against last season. So, we want to hear from you, have the Habs improved, regressed or held steady since last season? Are some areas improving while others are regressing?

Let us know what you think, leave a comment or send us a tweet by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Pregame Preview: Canadiens at Senators (Game #48)

Habs Vs Sens Playoffs 
Match Up:

The Canadiens (26-16-5) are in Ottawa Thursday night to take on the Senators (21-18-8) at the Canadian Tire Centre. The game is set to start at 7:30 and can be seen on RDS and TSN.

This is the third of five games between the Habs and Sens, and the Canadiens are still looking for their first win. When these teams met at the beginning of the month, two third period goals helped the Habs force overtime but Clarke MacArthur scored 58 second into OT to give Ottawa the win. Daniel Briere had 2 goals and an assist in the 4-3 loss.

What to Watch:

Max Pacioretty scored his team high 20th goal Tuesday night, he's on pace to beat his career high of 33 goals set in 2011-2012. PK Subban still leads the Habs in points, but he has been shut out since his 4-point night in Dallas 6 games ago. In the 5 games since, Subban has gone -3 with 8 PIM.

Kyle Turris comes into Thursday's match riding a 3-game point streak with 3 goals and an assist in that span. Like the Canadiens, the Senators' top point scorer is also a defenseman. Erik Karlsson leads the way for Ottawa with 10 goals and 43 points.

What's at Stake:

The Canadiens have gone 7-7-2 in their last 16 games, good enough to maintain fourth spot in the Eastern Conference, but they may need to be better down the stretch if they expect to stay ahead of the rest of the Eastern pack. The Senators are among the teams chasing the Habs, they're 7 points back of Montreal and have gone 6-0-1 in their last 7 games.

Who's Out:

The Canadiens are missing Alex Galchenyuk (hand), Ryan White (upper body) and Davis Drewiske (shoulder). David Desharnais missed Tuesday's game with the flu but traveled with the Habs to Ottawa and will be a game time decision Thursday night.

The Senators are without Chris Neil (lower body) which should have Habs fans breathing a sigh of relief. Neil's 6 points in 42 games this season doesn't make him the biggest threat offensively, but he was a major thorn in Montreal's side during last year's playoff meeting.

What Else:

Normally a strength for the Habs, Montreal's power play has been ice cold during their recent stretch of mediocrity. The Canadiens have gone 6-54 in their last 16 games with the man advantage and have been 0 for their last 18. The Senators have been fairly effective against the Habs' power play, they've killed 9 of Montreal's 10 opportunities in the 2 previous games this season.

The Question Mark:

It's time to have your say, is the slumping power play the worst problem affecting the Habs right now or is there a bigger weakness?

Let us know what you think, leave a comment or send us a tweet by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Pregame Preview: Canadiens vs Devils (Game #47)

habs_devils_dec102011 
 Match Up:

The Canadiens (26-15-5) are home to host the Devils (19-18-10) Tuesday night. The game is set to start at 7:30 and airs on RDS and TSN-Habs.

This is the third and final meeting between the Habs and Devils this season. The Canadiens will have their sights set on a season sweep after a pair of back-to-back wins at the start of December. This might also be Martin Brodeur's last game in his hometown as the legend's career winds down after two decades in the league.

What to Watch:

Carey Price has helped the Habs earn points in his last 7 starts and has a 7-1-2 record in his last 10. Price is set to take part in his first Olympics next month and his .928 save percentage and 2.19 GAA puts him ahead of his Team Canada counterparts, Roberto Luongo and Mike Smith.

Former Hab Michael Ryder comes in to Montreal with 5 goals and 7 points in his last 8 games. He now leads the Devils with 16 goals on the year. Jaromir Jagr, who will turn 42 during the Sochi Olympics, continues to lead the Devils in scoring. With 36 points on the year, Jagr is 11 points ahead of his fellow Czech Olympian, 37-year old Patrik Elias.

What's at Stake:

The Habs are looking to take 3 of 3 against the Devils this season, a team that has worked their way back into the playoff conversation in the East. Montreal is locked into a 3-way race for top spot in the Atlantic, although they're a step behind the Lightning and Bruins.

Who's Out:

The Canadiens are without Alex Galchenyuk (hand) until after the Olympic break. Also missing are Ryan White (upper body) and Davis Drewiske (shoulder).

The Devils are missing Patrik Elias (upper body), Damien Brunner (knee), Peter Harrold (foot) and Jacob Josefson (illness).

What Else:

While this may be Martin Brodeur's final visit to his hometown as an NHL goalie, his legacy will certainly live on. The veteran netminder has won 3 Stanley Cups, 2 Olympic Gold Medals, 5 Jennings Trophies, 4 Vezinas and holds countless individual records such as most shutouts in a playoff campaign (7), most regular season wins (681), most regular season shutouts (124) and many more.

Jaromir Jagr has also been spending his time in New Jersey setting NHL records and Milestones. Jagr recently passed his former teammate, Mario Lemieux, in career points to take over seventh spot on the list. He also recently became the NHLer with the most career game winning goals, scoring his 122nd GWG on December 18 against the Senators.

The Question Mark:

While the Canadiens have a bit of breathing room between themselves and the Wild Card teams, the Devils are one of 9 Eastern conference teams within 4 points of sixth place in the conference. So we want to hear your thoughts, which bubble team, the Capitals, Rangers, Wings, Leafs, Flyers, Devils, Jackets, Sens or Hurricanes, would give the Habs the most trouble in a playoff series?

Let us know what you think, leave a comment or send us a tweet by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.
Be sure to tune into the Montreal Hockey Talk Pregame Show an hour before the puck drop and the Post Game Show 5 minutes after the final siren. Join the live conversation by using the #MTLHockey hashtag on Twitter.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Monday Musings: Blackhawks Down!

Happy Monday, Habs Addicts!!

Photo Credit: Thescore.com
Quite an interesting week that was last week:  On Monday - after losing the first two matchups - the Habs finally defeated the mighty Florida Panthers (third time is a charm, evidently). On Tuesday, P.K. Subban and Carey Price were officially named to the Canadian Olympic hockey team, ending all debate on whether Subban would make it.  On Wednesday, Subban celebrated his Olympic berth by being benched in the third period of a 3-1 loss to the surging Philadelphia Flyers.  However, the Habs as a group rebounded to shut down the mighty Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 on Saturday night.  Up, downs, up again. Story of the year so far. In this weeks edition of my Monday Musings -- which debuted last week -- I'll touch on these games and the upcoming Sochi Olympic games.

- The Florida Panthers made a visit to the Bell Centre on Monday, marking the third time these teams have met this season.  The Panthers won the first two games - both played in December and both started by Peter Budaj - by scores of 2-1 and 4-1, respectively.  This time the Habs stepped up and treated them like the NHL team they are, giving Carey Price the start and put in a solid defensive effort in a 2-1 victory.  David Desharnais and Brian Gionta had the goals for Montreal, who peppered Tim Thomas with 35 shots on goal and held off a late Florida rally in the third period. Carey Price had 16 stops in the third period, alone. PK Subban led all Canadiens in ice time at 27:26 and Rafael Diaz spent another game in the press box as Douglas Murray returned to the lineup.  The Habs controlled the game from the get-go until the Panther woke up in the third. Overall, a solid if unspectacular effort. The only negative to come out of this game is that Alex Galchenyuk broke a bone in his hand and will be out for 6-weeks.  Luckily 3 weeks of that will be the Olympic hockey break, so the overall game-lost impact will not be as great as it would have been earlier/later in the season.

- Carey Price and P.K. Subban were both named to the Canadian Olympic hockey team on Tuesday morning.  While Price was more or less a lock to make the squad based on his play this year, Subban was on the bubble in the media.  Depending on who you asked, he was either a lock to make the team or would be left off.  The knocks on Subban include his penchant for risky offensive play and unpolished defensive skills.  Rubbish. Yes, that's right. I used rubbish. I stated in last weeks article that Subban deserves to be there and would be there.  He has the offensive skills to make up for any perceived defensive liabilities and his tremendous skating ability allows him to make up for some of his risks that do not pay off. Paired with a solid stay-at-home option like Dan Hamhuis or Marc-Edouarde Vlasic, Subban should shine. He is the reigning Norris Trophy winner, afterall.

Overall, the Habs are sending 8 players to Sochi: Subban & Price with Canada; Tomas Plekanec with the Czech Republic; Andrei Markov and Alexi Emelin with Russia; Peter Budaj is heading back with Slovakia; Rafael Diaz is leading the Swiss defenders; Max Pacioretty with Team USA.  The 8 players from Montreal are second most of any team in the NHL with only the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks sending more (10 each).  That is a big chunk of the roster who will be playing intense, playoff style hockey games while the rest of the league is resting.  Whether or not playing these extra games being played by key veterans hurts the Habs down the stretch remains to be seen.

- After a spirited, dominant battle against the Panthers on Monday, the Canadiens came out very flat on Wednesday in Philadelphia.  Steve Mason made 19 saves - only 5 in the third period - enroute to a 3-1 victory.  Peter Budaj got the start for Montreal and has now lost his last 3 starts and 4 of his last 5 overall.  We all knew he wasn't going to have the same sparkling 8-1-1 record he had in relief last year (currently 5-4-1), his overall numbers are up.  Budaj is posting a better goals-against and save-percentage this season, the team simply has not shown up on offense in the majority of his starts.  The story of note from this game was the benching of P.K. Subban in the third period.  Michel Therrien has been full of questionable decisions this year. Chalk this one up as another one.  While down late in the third, Therrien also made the decision not to pull goalie Budaj in favor of the extra attacker.  Hard to know what the behind-the-scenes looked like after the benching, however both player and coach said all the right things after the fact.  The fact remains that the Habs need Subban to be Subban. No Subban = No playoffs. Period. When 29 other General Managers would take Subban without blinking, receiving only lukewarm praise all season long from both Bergevin and Therrien, it makes you wonder how things will play out come contract time.  Its a no-brainer, gentlemen. You sign him. You sign him for a long time. And you let him play his game.

- The Jekyll and Hyde week concluded with a solid shutdown of the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.  The Hawks came into the game leading the league with 3.58 goals scored per game and had 4 players - Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith - in the top 15 of NHL scoring.  It didn't matter.  Montreal held Chicago to only 20 shots on goal, while peppering the dazzling Corey Crawford with 38 shots of their own enroute to a 2-1 overtime win.  Andrei Markov scored both Montreal goals and led the Habs in ice-time with his customary 25+ minutes.  Michel Therrien's questionable decision to insert noted speedsters George Parros and Douglas Murray into the lineup paid off, as a Parros screen on Crawford led to the first goal of the game.  One could argue that this was the most effective game Parros has played, as he finished a +1 for the first time as Hab in only 3:33 minutes of action.  A little comical note: With Brandon Prust, Douglas Murray and George Parros in the lineup, the only fight of the game was a scrap between two other heavyweights: Kris Versteeg and ... Brendan Gallagher.

- The Habs have been very inconsistent on a game-to-game basis this year, frustrating fans and the media alike.  This week alone they came out with a strong effort in the Panthers victory, a flatter than flat effort in a loss to the Flyers and rebounded with a dominant defensive performance against the Blackhawks.  Michel Therrien has been full of questionable decisions all year long. Constant line juggling, benching his top defender, giving more ice time to underperforming veterans (Bourque, Briere, Bouillon) over younger, more talented players (Galchenyuk, Bournival, Eller) and some rather illogical game-plans that occasionally pan out (Murray & Parros against the speedy, talented Blackhawks happened to work but shouldn't have).

So concludes my musings for this Monday.  This week Montreal begins with a home game against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday before two tough division games on the road: Thursday at Ottawa and Saturday at Toronto. Should be a solid week of hockey ahead.

Three Questions from my musings:

A) Who needs to step up on offense in place of Alex Galchenyuk over the next 6 weeks?

B) Will having 8 players participating in the Olympics have a positive or negative impact on the roster for the home stretch towards the playoffs?

C) Will his questionable decision making, under-performing offense and handling of PK Subban earn Michel Therrien a spot in Marc Bergevin's doghouse if the Habs fail to improve upon last seasons results (Top 4 playoff seed; 1st round playoff elimination)?


Montreal Canadiens Three Stars of the Week - Jan 6 - 12, 2014

montreal canadiens habs tricolore 3 stars nhl

A pair of 2-1 victories on home ice helped the Canadiens take 4 of 6 points last week. The Habs held on on to a one goal third period lead against the Panthers Monday night despite allowing 16 shots on goal in the final frame. The Habs fared less well in Philadelphia Wednesday, they were thoroughly outplayed by the streaking Flyers and dropped the match 3-1. But the team did managed to finish on a high note, the beat the defending Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks 2-1 in overtime and manage to look better than the Hawks just about every step of the way.

First Star: Tomas Plekanec

A force in all three games, Plekanec is back up to second on the team in scoring with a goal and an assist last week. Plekanec helped seal the win against the Panthers Monday night when his hard forecheck forced a turnover from Florida captain Ed Jovanovski, which led to Brian Gionta's game winner. Wednesday night, Plekanec had the Habs' only goal in a 3-1 loss to the Flyers, and while he was held pointless against the Blackhawks, Plek had 11 shots on goal Saturday night, including 3 of the team's 4 overtime shots.

Second Star: Carey Price 

Price went 2-0-0 on the week allowing just 2 goals in 121 minutes of play and stopping 45 of 47 pucks. Price's .928 save percentage has him up to fifth place in the league and his 21 wins are good enough for sixth. Price's highlight of the week may have come Tuesday morning when he was named as one of three goalies that will represent Canada in Sochi for this year's Olympic games.

Third Star: Andrei Markov

Andrei Markov had a somewhat quiet start to the week, he was held pointless Monday and Wednesday night and went -1 in each game. But the veteran blueliner ended the week with a bang, scoring both of Montreal's goals against the Blackhawks to power the team to their 2-1 OT win. Like Price and Plekanec, Markov was named to his national team and will get to represent Russia on home ice for the Sochi Olympics.

Honorable Mention: The Canadiens' Olympic Hopefuls

With the final Olympic rosters being announced this week, 8 Canadiens learned that they will be joining their country's national teams in Sochi next month, including all three of this week's stars. The other 5 Olympic hopefuls are Max Pacioretty for Team USA, Peter Budaj for Slovakia, Raphael Diaz for Team Swiss, Alexei Emelin for Russia and PK Subban who will join Carey Price on Team Canada. On top of being named to Team Czech Republic, Tomas Plekanec was given the honor of captaining the team even with the wealth of experience and leadership players like Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias and Petr Nedved will bring.